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updated: 10/3/2017 1:00 PM

Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

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The (Munster) Times. September 28, 2017

Hoosier chief justice brings new muscle to opioid fight

Indiana's growing fight against a debilitating opioid addiction crisis just gained a powerful ally, who will collaborate and attack the problem from a national vantage point.

It's a growing sign of Hoosier authority in high places that can only benefit our state.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush has been selected to lead a task force of state court officials examining the justice system's role in combating the nation's opioid crisis.

Rush will co-chair the panel with Tennessee court administrator Deborah Taylor.

The task force will begin meeting in November, giving important audience to state and national experts on what is and isn't working in opioid abuse prevention. It's also hoped the task force efforts could bolster partnerships that focus specifically on the impact of opioids on children, foster children and families.

Rush will be helping develop guidance for state courts to promote collaboration among treatment providers, court systems and other important players in fighting this scourge.

We've argued before for a multi-jurisdictional approach to this problem and have lauded Indiana officials for pursuing this strategy.

In an editorial last week, we also reminded our readers that every month 100 Hoosiers are dying from drug overdoses, a lion's share related to opioids, heroin and prescription painkillers.

Indiana has the 17th-highest rate of overdose deaths in our nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but is one of the hardest places to find treatment.

Now a top Hoosier judicial official is helping to spearhead a collaborative fight against what is clearly a state and national epidemic.

The National Center for State Courts is coordinating the work. We can only hope it makes a difference for our state and others.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. September 27, 2017

Scott County suing opioid manufacturers

Scott County, Indiana, became the face of the nation's opioid epidemic with an HIV outbreak in 2015.

Now the county has sued two drug manufacturers it alleges are responsible for the scourge. The Scott County Board of Commissioners filed suit this month against Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals, charging the companies "began a marketing scheme designed to persuade doctors and patients that opioids can and should be used for chronic pain." The companies, manufacturers of Oxycontin and Percocet, spent millions of dollars on marketing and promotional activities, according to the lawsuit.

"The reason for the suit is the devastating nature of what's happened in our county, almost compared with anything else in the world per capita," said Bob Houston, the Scottsburg attorney representing Scott County in its suit. The county seeks to recover economic damages related to the ongoing epidemic and HIV outbreak, including costs for public safety, detention, EMS services, medical treatment and more.

The states of Ohio, Kentucky, New Hampshire and South Carolina also have filed suit against pharmaceutical companies, in lawsuits patterned after those targeting tobacco manufacturers in the 1990s. Indiana has yet to join the class-action suits.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. September 27, 2017

State failed man who spent 21 years in prison

In February 1996, Judge Thomas Newman Jr. sentenced Trondo Humphrey to 60 years in prison for the murder of Benjamin Laflin.

This may seem like justice served. It was not.

Twenty-one years later, Humphrey is a free man.

This may seem like a miscarriage of justice. It is not.

Humphrey walked out of the Madison County Jail last week to begin a new life after the Madison County Prosecutor's office agreed to dismiss a murder charge against him. The charge was re-instituted in the 1995 death after the Indiana Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Humphrey earlier this year, finding he had poor legal representation at his original trial.

The public defender who represented Humphrey in that trial reportedly sent his mother a letter apologizing for his inexperience. But his inexperience wasn't the only factor in the eyes of the Indiana Supreme Court that led to a "perfect storm of error by all involved . resulting in a collapse of the system."

His conviction heavily relied on the unsworn statement of Roosevelt Brooks, who later recanted his story. Humphrey's attorney did not file an objection to that, nor did he object to jury instructions that incorrectly quoted Indiana law.

The justices of the Indiana Supreme Court concluded the counsel's errors undermined "our confidence in the verdict the case rendered."

So Humphrey has his freedom. But during his incarceration he couldn't serve as the father and grandfather he had become. He couldn't eat hundreds of his mother's home-cooked meals. The man has missed decades worth of memories.

The state failed Trondo Humphrey, and he paid a high price.

What's worse is Humphrey's case isn't an isolated incident.

The state owes it to Humphrey and each of its citizens to address the failures of the criminal justice system and do all it can to ensure this never happens again.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. September 28, 2017

Time to redraw the MCCSC voting zones

Gerrymandering has skewed district lines for elections so much that few races at the national and state levels are competitive anymore. The process allows the party in power to draw district lines that provide a big advantage for their party.

For example, during the last redistricting in Indiana, Republicans carved up mostly Democratic Monroe County so that it is represented by five state representatives - four Republicans and one Democrat. There must be a more fair way to draw lines, for the sake of voters. But that would inconvenience and threaten the politicians. So voters were marginalized.

The case of district lines for Monroe County Community School Corp. board elections is quite different. School board races are nonpartisan - political parties are not involved. Districts are drawn to represent a population balance, and a person elected to the school board must live in the district, or zone, in which he or she is a candidate. However, voters from around the school district can vote in all districts.

The idea is to allow all school corporation patrons to vote for all board members, but to guarantee representation is spread throughout the corporation so that one school doesn't have unfair power because of where the board members reside.

Some citizens correctly say it's time to look at the district lines again. The seven voting zones, as they are called, were developed in 1994 to represent relatively equal areas of population. But populations have shifted since then, and it's time for a reset.

No one's at fault or trying to pull a fast one, as with gerrymandering. But the citizens who point out that the largest zones have 20,000 people in them and the smallest about 10,000 have a good point about unequal representation.

Those pushing for the changes say equalizing the population distribution will encourage more people to run for school board. That outcome would be a positive step, getting more citizens involved in the debate about the school corporation and its mission of educating young people.

We do believe those elected to the MCCSC board represent all students from all voting areas without favor. That said, there are good enough reasons to have the discussion and redraw the lines.

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